This post is a continuation of foods inspired by my trip to Asheville, NC, for the Food Blog Forum conference. The second day of the conference was hosted by Explore Asheville Foodtopia. The day began with a visit to a local brewery, the Highland Brewing Company.
I had no idea that Asheville is home to more artisan breweries than any other place in the U.S. We were given the opportunity to tour the actual brewery and watch the beer making and bottling activities in action. The tour was nice, but what really floored me was the reception that was waiting for us when we arrived. Many of the local restaurants and food purveyors had stations set up with samples of their specialties matched with various Highland Brews. Ribs and beer for breakfast? It was tough, but somehow I managed.
There were representatives from the local honey purveyors, ice cream makers, and even a professional forager, who had brought a sample of the most beautiful mushrooms I’ve ever seen.
The Foodtopia group also gave us a very nice bag full of some of the local goodies, to include a bottle of Smokin J’s barbecue sauce.
Early this past summer, I decided I needed to improve my grilling skills. Actually, I decided to become a “grill goddess,” and purchased a couple of grilling cookbooks to assist me, including a copy of Gastro Grilling by Ted Reader. I really like this book because it goes well beyond the throw-a-steak-on-the-grill version of outdoor cooking. I spotted this salad recipe early on, and decided it would make a great side with grilled meats. The barbecue vinaigrette reminds me of french dressing, only better. It’s great on a simple green salad as well. If you live in a climate warm enough to still be enjoying some early fall tomatoes, and you’re crazy like us and grill outside year ‘round, this salad is for you. Even if you live somewhere that you have already experienced your first snowfall, there is always next year.
Tomato Salad with Grilled Blue Cheese Onions and Barbecue Vinaigrette
I used Penzey’s Barbecue spice for the salad dressing. If you don’t have access to Penzey’s feel free to substitute your favorite barbecue rub combined with a pinch of sugar. This salad is great with a mixture of different heirloom tomatoes of different colors, but use whatever you can find. If you prefer to use only one type of onion, all red, for example, that’s okay too. To chiffonade basil, tightly roll the leaves lengthwise and slice thinly.
1 16-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained
1 anchovy filet
1/2 cup your favorite barbecue sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Penzey’s Barbecue spice or other
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
8 medium size tomatoes
1 medium red onion
1 medium white onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/2 cup basil leaves, chiffonade
Prepare the vinaigrette: place the first eight ingredients (through the barbecue spice) in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Turn on the food processor and slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube, stopping the machine when the vinaigrette is smooth and completely emulsified. Transfer to a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Preheat the grill on high. Thickly slice the tomatoes and arrange on a serving platter.
Slice the onions into 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the onions on one side for 6 minutes, then turn them over and grill for another 5 minutes. They should be fairly tender and slightly charred. Sprinkle some of the blue cheese on each onion slice and close the lid for about a minute to melt the cheese.
Carefully remove the onions from the grill and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Cut the onions into quarters and arrange on top of the tomatoes. Drizzle the salad with some of the dressing and serve the remainder on the side. Top the salad with the basil and serve.
Adapted from Gastro Grilling by Ted Reader